Monthly Archives: February 2013

Surviving in Style

So, turns out that not many of you actually knew that I was going to go traveling all summer.  This is not an accident… I’m sorry I didn’t tell you all the deets but I had mixed feelings about the trip, and it was an impulsive, irresponsible, and last-minute decision.  From before I even left the States for Argentina I had been planning some sort of extensive trip through South America during the Argentine summer (December-February), but things didn’t quite go to plan as I’d expected financially.  Trip cancelled.  I wasn’t tooooo upset though.  My friends had invited me to spend 5 days including New Year’s with them on an island in Tigre which sounded awesome, I’d be spending Christmas with my host family, and I still had plenty left to explore and get to know in Buenos Aires.  Staying would be comfortable and I’d still have a marvelous summer.  Then came along Maxi.

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Max sent me a couch request on a site called couchsurfing.com  (go there if you don’t know what it is because I’m too lazy to explain it or read this blog about how freaking awesome it is) asking for a place to stay in Buenos Aires.  He was traveling for eight months in South America after doing an intensive month of Spanish in Chile by hitch hiking.  Obviously I couldn’t offer him a place to stay because I live with a family, but I told him we could meet up and I could show him what little I know about the city.  It was his birthday so we made a chocotorta (dulce de leche with chocolate graham crackers and cream…ummm duh) and then tried to rent free city bikes and visit some of the parks in the city.  We only managed to get our hands on one bike…so while we attempted to ride it together quite comically through the traffic-heavy streets of the city, he told me all about the places he planned on visiting and how he’d hitchhiked all the way from Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires, Argentina and what a great experience it was and and and and…well I got that little Autumn urge that sometimes often makes me do crazy things.

After thinking about it for not nearly enough time and bouncing the idea off a few friends—“So I’m thinking of going hitch hiking around a country I don’t know very well with this guy from Germany I just met through an online travel site, what do you think?”—and receiving, cough, mixed, cough cough, advice and opinions, I decided to jump ship and go anyways.  You only live once, and I AM supposed to be on a crazy one-year adventure in Argentina, so I found excuse to go.  I was both terrified and thrilled by the idea of hitchhiking.  It sounds so adventurous and hippy-glamorous to a young person like me; it sounds so dangerous and rash to a mother…like my mom.  Consequently, I kept all that hitchhiking/sleeping in gas stations stuff on the down low, which may be why you didn’t hear that much about it before I left.  I honestly didn’t like telling people that I’d be thumbing rides because I expected negativity and fear among the people that cared about me.  Only about 90% of the time was I actually met with negativity and fear before I left; now that I’m back 90% seem to think it was a cool idea…thanks for the support, guys.

Clearly, I didn’t die (until Bolivia but that’s a whole other tangent.)

Because I decided to spend Christmas with my host family, and Maxi was getting anxious and antsy to leave Buenos Aires, he went on ahead without me.

Image^^Totally went swimming on Christmas 😛

I had to take a bus from Buenos Aires to Rosario to meet him the day after Christmas (about 185 miles or 298 kilometers.)  I packed up my things, emptied out my backpack, put half of my things back in the closet, packed up my things again, took out another half of my things in order to shut my backpack, cleaned my room, said goodbye to my host mom and set out for the bus station.  The decision to leave was so rushed that I didn’t even really get to say goodbye to the rest of my host family.  I didn’t feel anything while riding to the bus station.  Not nervousness, not excitement, not fear.  I was attempting to suppress all of my feelings in order to focus on getting to Rosario and Max all by myself.  All of those emotions hit me at once when I arrived to the platform in Buenos Aires waiting to board the bus.  It wasn’t very much fun.  It felt like I’d eaten too much, had to pee, and couldn’t breathe all at the same time.  No bueno.  What the ;akshg;aihsg was I thinking?!  We didn’t even really know where we were going!!!  I was the only one who could really understand Spanish well and even then it was more than obvious that I was a foreigner if I spoke more than two words.  Scenes from Taken kept flashing behind my eyelids every I blinked.  I sat down, swallowed and took a deep breath, mentally encouraging myself to be strong.  I finally managed to settle down by going over and over the directions to the hostel Max was staying at in Rosario and reminding myself not to talk to cute foreign French guys because they might abduct me like in the movie.  Deep breaths.

The bus ride was uneventful.  Halfway through we got a second rate ham and cheese sandwich with what I think were supposed to be crackers; vegetarian translation: some bread and cheese.  I tried to enjoy my ungrilled cheese while watching the quality Hollywood entertainment on the mini screen in front of me (Twilight) and admiring my nails.  I realized that painting them before I left had been a waste of time.

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Dainty nails and roughing it on the road don’t really go well together.  I realized I was going to have to put my glamorous side away and find my inner granola girl…and soon.  I fell asleep imagining myself chasing animals with a sharpened stick, brambles and sticks in my tangled hair wearing rags and sporting chipped fingernail polish, a real survivor Autumn.

When I woke up we had arrived in Rosario.  I checked my (Otto’s) iPhone and it was about 1 in the morning, not prime time to walk the 20 blocks with all of my things to Max’s hostel…I was exhausted, but I kept telling myself to pony up—after all I planned on “backpacking” all summer and couldn’t wimp out on my first night!  Think of the survivor Autumn, think of the survivor Autumn!  Things went smoothly.  I arrived, hugged Maxi, showered, and fell asleep.  We ate continental breakfast in the morning and talked with the friends Max had made in the hostel the night before.  Moshe, an Israeli who was also traveling South America, gave us some advice about Peru and Ecuador (although we didn’t really plan on making it that far) and I made friends with the hostel kitten, Lorenzo.

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As we were paying and checking out I began to grow nervous again.  We had a new destination in mind—Villa Carlos Paz and Cuesta Blanca.  Maxi had stumbled across it online and fallen in love virtually; I had already been there once before in August when I visited Cordoba and knew it was beautiful.  I just wasn’t so sure how we were going to get there…  Maxi asked the girl at the front desk where it would be easy to get a ride hitchhiking and my stomach started to practice acrobatics.  She told us where to catch the bus out of town, one that would head to an intersection on the highway where lots of trucks would be heading to Cordoba.  The girl talked to us about where we were headed, etc, casually interested and told us about the time she hitchhiked with friends all the way to Uruguay.  My stomach started to calm down a bit but still seemed ready to flip.  We walked to the corner, said goodbye to the friends we’d made and caught the bus.  On the way we ate the honey roasted peanuts and raisins I’d bought before leaving Buenos Aires.  I was eating out of nervousness, and those of you who know me know that it’s not a very classy process.  My hands were covered in sticky-raisin-honey dust-goo as I shoved handfuls of the mixture in my mouth and I think the guys sitting across from me were trying not to gawk, but I didn’t care.  I was about to dance around on a street corner asking some random strangers for a ride in a foreign country, let me eat my peanuts the way I want.

We arrived and situated ourselves on the street corner.  There was a lot of traffic and Maxi confirmed that we’d found a pretty good spot.  Underneath all of my nervousness I could feel the excitement, the sun was shining solidly and the combination made me giddy.  I was way too entertained by the following Fireworks sign.

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We didn’t have to wait under the sun for very long though, as the coolest ride ever pulled over.  I didn’t really think that this sort of thing happened and I expected hitchhiking to be a little miserable—windy tail gates, creepy men, uncomfortable temperatures, etc.  Not a double decker truck carrying 2013 Fiats.  Plus, they were going to take us just outside the capital of Cordoba, a distance of nearly 400 kilometers (250 miles.)  We got the penthouse Fiat, rolled down the windows, plugged in my mp3 player to the brand new surround sound system and commenced jamming out.  We were equipped with leftover peanuts that I didn’t devour in my pre-departure panic and could lay the seats back and nap if we wanted even.  The only real thing missing was an incredible view; the landscape between Rosario and Cordoba is mostly plains.  But there was nothing at all to complain about.

We stopped halfway to drink some coffee and get gas station snacks.  There was also a family riding in one of the Fiats on the bottom level of the truck, apparently friends of the driver, Mariano, who lived in Cordoba capital.  They said it was pretty common to be hitchhiking but that we should always have caution and stick together.  Mariano said the only reason he picked us up was because we were white as marshmallows (clearly not from here) and I was a girl (let’s face it, girls seem less likely to cut your throat.)  I was just elated with my beginner’s luck; if this was what hitch hiking was like then I was sold!  Bury that image of the scratched up, chipped nails, savage Autumn, I was on my way.

Anyways, this post is getting long and I’m being even more long winded than usual so I will post more for you later.  I am only on day 2….this is going to be quite the project.  Love you guys!  Thanks for reading!

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Standing In Argentina…and Bolivia…and Brazil

Oh my gosh you guys it’s been such a long time!  I didn’t realize how much I missed having my own computer and my keyboard.  It’s wonderful.  I really missed writing on my blog too, and although I kept a journal, it is oh so nice to be able to keep up with my racing thoughts on a real English keyboard.  As you may know, I got a crazy (and turns out I was pretty crazy, looking back) urge to up and go hitch hiking around Argentina and Bolivia.  After that, Carnaval in Brazil, with one of my best friends from the United States, Marketa, would be my cherry on the ice cream.

Since you heard from me last I have been to thirty three different towns, countless provinces, and three different countries. Image ^^This is a map of the route I took.  The red is by hitchhiking/bus and the blue lines are flights that I took to get to Brazil/back to Buenos Aires.

Ok, I was already in Argentina so that technically doesn’t count as a third country, but the capital (Buenos Aires) is very different from the rest of the country and I learned un montonaso more about the culture.  That doesn’t mean it wasn’t without difficulties.  I’ve found myself literally sitting in a fire (yeah, that pair of jeans is gone) to keep warm, miserably trying to pretend I didn’t exist with one of the worst migraines of my life getting salmonella in Bolivia, and trying to sit down with the most crisply burned butt I’ve personally ever witnessed in Brazil.  Photos are below.

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^^I don’t have a picture of my burned jeans but this is a picture of the resulting decision to finally buy a sleeping bag.  This night (in Tafí del Valle) I still froze, but much more comfortably and without the crying or burned clothing.

Image^^I was sick for nearly two weeks.  This was in Sucre, a city I didn’t even really see because I spent the entire time feeling miserable in the hostel.

Image^^I am the biggest idiot in three states 😦  Right now I feel like a snake that’s shedding it’s skin–the way I’m peeling right now, despite the pounds of lotion Marketa and I applied every two hours, is positively frightening.

I saw some incredibly beautiful places and met some amazing people.  I learned more than I would ever have thought about myself too.  But by the end of the sixty-seven days of traveling, I was more than ready to go back home to Buenos Aires.  I could have never imagined how much this city would feel like home to me…I mean, I was so happy to be home and see my family and friends that I only slept three hours the first night despite having endured a nineteen hour flight/travel/connection fiasco in three different languages to get here.  On the ride home from the airport (an hour through solid city),  I was just as awestruck and excited as when I took the same journey six months ago, but this time not so much by the tall skyscrapers and billboards in Spanish, but by myself and my own attitudes.  It wasn’t so foreign and new and interesting, it was home.

This time I was comfortably chatting with the taxi driver in Spanish about tourism, dangers of the city, benefits of traveling, what his daughter was studying, cool places to see in Brazil, etc. while enjoying some medialunas and a cafecito from the most Statian of food chains.

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^^I like McDonald’s better here….

We passed the Burger King on the corner of the block before mine and my stomach fluttered.  I felt so silly being so excited about coming back to the city I’d only lived in for five months.  How could I feel so at home here after such a short time?  When I walked into my apartment building the first thing that hit me was the smell.  I feel so cheesy and dramatic writing this but I’m not kidding, the smell just made me smile.  It’s not a bad smell or anything like that at all, it’s just the smell of the apartment that I never noticed until I left and it gave me an instant feeling of comfort and contentedness.  I gave my host mom a big hug and we talked for a few minutes about how our summer’s had gone and how excessively worried she was about me while I was deathly ill in Bolivia (sorry.)  Then my host brother, Guillo, got home and I gave him the magnets I’d been collecting for him from all of the places that I’d visited.  Those were the only souvenirs I’d bought on my journey, which I kind of feel guilty about, but I was strapped for cash and couldn’t buy everyone a little something…so no one got anything really.

The butterflies in my stomach didn’t go away. I went to my room, shoved my bags into a corner, turned on my laptop ❤ and listened to some music that I’d been missing all summer (the 1,000 songs on my mp3 player surprisingly became incredibly redundant after the first month, and almost unenjoyable by the end of the viaje.)  After I was half satisfied with the music and felt overwhelmed with love trying to answer all the messages on my Facebook account, I decided that at 3 in the morning I should probably be going to bed.  I walked into my little bathroom, pulled the shower curtain around me and the toilet and rediscovered that water pressure and hot water are magnificent luxuries.  I wanted to hug the shower head…but I wasn’t tall enough.  To top it all off I slipped into my OWN soft bed with clean sheets, freshly showered and wearing clean pajamas—not the dirty, nasty ones that smelled like campfire I’d been spraying with VS Mango Temptation to avoid washing all summer…  You’d think I’d drift off to sleep in an instant but I just couldn’t.  There were so many things to look forward to—seeing my friends again, getting my smartphone back (Otto’s a genius), picking my classes for next semester, eating milanesa de soja—I just couldn’t relax.  I eventually slept but at eight in the morning I was ready to take on the world again; instead, I just downloaded the 5 new episodes of Shameless I’d missed and sat watching them eating some toast with dulce de leche.

When I saw Sol later that day (after lots of hugs and such), I found myself realizing how long I’d been gone.  It’s impossible to summarize everything that I did over the summer and even though she could give me a quick recap of the major things that happened with her, there was just too much to tell.  It’s the same here on this blog, guys.  I seriously wrote over 100 pages in my journal.  I don’t know how to fit all of that into this blog to share with you but I’m going to try little by little over the next week.  I’ll start from the beginning and try to post things during this last week of break I have.  The problem, you should know, is that it’s going to take a lot of motivation and effort on my part to post about that much so bear with me and give me some support so I don’t get lazy and stop posting. 🙂

Love you all so much and I’m so happy to be home!  To all of my friends and family back in the USA, I should be on Skype fairly often for the next week or two just to catch up with you all.  PLUS, I can text now because I have my smartphone back and a pretty constant connection to wifi.  To hold you all over in the meantime I’m sharing my Facebook album with like 250 pictures from over the summer (all out of order cuz Facebook is dumbbbb.)  Enjoy!

Click here —> Adventurrrre Is Out There!!!